Written by Api Sulistyo
June 11, 2020
On Monday afternoon I was in the kitchen getting ready to cook for dinner. I was excited to try something new, Sweet and Sour Chicken, that I have learned from YouTube. Suddenly I heard my daughter Ingrid sharing about her first day of her summer job with her older sister Megan. I could feel the excitement in her voice. She enthusiastically told the details of her experience. She is working for The Lazarus Project, providing therapeutic support to children with autism. https://www.lazarusprojectmn.net/
I decided to join them so that I could listen to her stories and continue cooking later. She really enjoys the job and after just one day she was able to describe the characteristic of each kid. She found it fun, stimulating, and tiring at the same time. This will be a great experience for her.
Our son David has a summer job with Conservation Corps. It’s mission is to “provide hands-on environmental stewardship and service-learning opportunities to young adults while accomplishing conservation, natural resources management and disaster response work.” https://www.conservationcorps.org/
Together with three other college students, he is building rain gardens for designated families in the Twin Cities. He said it is a lot of work but it is going well. The team is getting better at what they are doing and are completing each project faster. Rain gardens are designed to capture rainwater and prevent the rapid release of excess stormwater into municipal water systems. A well placed rain garden reduces runoff and flooding, and filters pollutants carried in stormwater runoff.
My Summer Job
I grew up in Central Java, Indonesia. Summer jobs are not very common there because we do not have a long summer break. However, one summer when I was in college, I wanted to do something to earn money. It was financially challenging for my family to send me to college. It was a private school, located about 20 miles from our home in a rural area. I stayed in a boarding house together with seven other students. Every weekend I rode my bike back home to stay with my family. It took me a little more than one hour.
“Mom, I want to work,” I told my mom.
“What work?” She was curious. I think she was worried that I would quit school.
“In construction like Uncle (Om) Welas.”
Om Welas was a carpenter who was working hourly in the city. I was also informed that his older brother, Sunar, was a Supervisor.
“What can you do? You do not have the experience as a carpenter” she said hesitantly.
“I don’t know, but I can learn.” I convinced her.
I walked to Om Welas’ house, 200 yards away from my home. He was relaxing in front of his house. It is very common in a rural community in Indonesia that people stop by without prior notification. Still, he was a bit surprised and invited me to join him sitting on a home-made bamboo bench. The name Welas in Javanese language means care and forgiveness.
Om Welas thought I was joking when I told him that I wanted to work with him. A college student working in construction as an hourly worker?! The hourly rate was very little. However, it would be good money for me. Om Welas asked me to start the next Monday. I was so happy to have the opportunity. My mom still did not believe it when I told her that Om Welas wanted me to start on Monday.
Before I left the house on Monday morning, my mom had prepared a special lunch for me in a plastic container. It was still warm. I opened the lid and it was steamed rice, stir-fried vegetables, fried egg and sambal (chili sauce). She also prepared a water bottle for me. I did not ask for it and she knew just what I wanted. She prepared my lunches almost every day before I left for work.
When we came to the work location I needed to register as a new worker. Om Welas took me to the gate after parking our bikes. He had a conversation with someone who looked familiar to me. He was Sunar, Om Welas’ brother. “You want to work here?” Sunar stared at me. He did not believe that I really want to work there. “What is your experience? Your hand looks clean and smooth. Go with Welas.” He finally instructed.
During the first week I moved bamboo poles from one place to another. We used tons of bamboos as the temporary support of the building and we got rid of them when we did not need them anymore. We were building a school called Akademi Pembangunan Masyarakat Desa (Academy of Rural Community Development). It was located outside Yogyakarta, Central Java. It was approximately seven miles from my boarding house. Some days, if I got too tired to bike back home, I would stay overnight in my empty boarding house. My mom did not like it when I did not come home. I had to explain to her why I did not go home.
When I received my first wage after working for two weeks, I showed the cash to her. My intention was to give the money to her. I insisted that she take the money. She left a bit for me so I could by a few packs of cigarettes. I was a heavy smoker at that time. I noticed the next day that my mom sent Auntie (Bulik) Biyem to the local traditional market, Kraguman market, to buy our daily needs such as rice, eggs, vegetables, chicken, etc. It was about two miles from our village. It made me smile to know that I had helped contribute to that.
One day I came to Om Welas. “May I work in a different area so that I can learn new skills?” He told me that he would find out. My next assignment was to assist a group of carpenters preparing the windows and the door for the school. Most of their tools were manual. Nowadays carpenters have more modern power tools. They asked me to measure the wood and mark it with a special pencil. The carpenters then review them and cut them. I enjoyed helping the carpenters build windows, doors, steps, fences, etc.
My summer job was only for four weeks. I wanted to stay for another week because I did not have to go back to campus yet. Sunar, the supervisor, said at the end of the day on Saturday that the company will no longer need unskilled workers. They kept the main workers who had the skills and relevant experience. So, I decided to spend the last week of my summer break with my family in rural Klaten, Central Java, Indonesia. My mom’s cooking is the best.